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How to completely outperform the market by... buying high?

Apr. 24, 2011 10:41 PM ET
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troylau's Blog
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Investing 101 tells you to, 'Buy low and sell high', and there are many, many investors who live by this motto. But is there any truth to it? Or perhaps, might you be better off buying high and selling higher? In this post I'll try to answer that very question by back testing a strategy that goes against that motto.


What I've done is taken all three major exchanges, over the past ten years, and implemented a strategy where I buy any stock that is at a 52 week high. After a certain amount of time I sell it, and perhaps buy it right back if it is again at a 52 week high. I've tested this method over 1, 3, 6, and 12 month holding times for each exchange. To calculate the average return I used the geometric mean to properly account for any volatility.


What I find is quite impressive. In fact, a strategy of buying every stock that is at a 52 week high completely outperformed the market, regardless of how long it is held. For comparison, over the past ten years the Nasdaq has gained 33%, the S&P has gained 2% and the illustrious Berkshire Hathaway A has risen a mere 80%


So here you go... the performance of the 'buy high' strategy for different holding periods.



1 Month Hold

                 10 Year performance       Avg. Return

 NYSE                   230%                     0.7%

 Nasdaq                230%                     0.7%

 Amex                   290%                     0.9%


3 Month Hold

                 10 Year performance       Avg. Return

NYSE                    280%                     2.6%

Nasdaq                 280%                     2.6%


Amex                    290%                     2.7%


6 Month Hold

                 10 Year performance       Avg. Return

 NYSE                   245%                     3.8%

 Nasdaq                212%                     3.2%

 Amex                   177%                     2.4%


12 Month Hold

                 10 Year performance       Avg. Return

 NYSE                   209%                     7.7%

 Nasdaq                158%                     4.7%

 Amex                   167%                     5.3%


An important consideration with each of these strategies are the hidden costs associated with things like commissions. While a 1 or 3 month hold may provide the best returns, you will also be paying significantly more commissions than with a 6 month or 1 year hold strategy. With that in mind I would claim that the 6 month hold strategy is the best, but that depends on what percentage of your investment your commissions take up.


Of course there are no promises of this strategy working over the next ten years, this is just something for you to consider. This strategy also won't make you a millionaire (unless you started with 1/2 a million dollars), but instead seems to be a nice way to slowly grow your money.



The analysis was run with a new upgrade of my code. It now takes less than one minute to back test a trading strategy over ten years on all three exchanges! With this in mind I invite my readers to propose new trading strategies that I can test and report the performance of on my blog. http://thequantinvestor.blogspot.com/

Seeking Alpha's Disclosure: Past performance is no guarantee of future results. No recommendation or advice is being given as to whether any investment is suitable for a particular investor. Any views or opinions expressed above may not reflect those of Seeking Alpha as a whole. Seeking Alpha is not a licensed securities dealer, broker or US investment adviser or investment bank. Our analysts are third party authors that include both professional investors and individual investors who may not be licensed or certified by any institute or regulatory body.

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